Fava Beans - A Labor of Love


If there is one word I would never use to describe myself it is patient.  You can ask anyone who knows me, and specifically my parents or my husband, to confirm this.  I often think much of my klutziness can be attributed to my inability to be careful and patient when doing most anything in life (thankfully, the one exception to this is my job). 

Given my propensity to want thing to be done NOW, it is a good thing that fava beans arrived in my Door to Door Organics delivery without me knowing how much work is involved in preparing them.  I now know from experience that they require a lot of work for a very small yield.

However, they are delicious.  You will be rewarded for your time and effort.

Many of you are probably wondering why I am posting about fava beans in late July given that they are typically available only in spring.  Let this be a lesson in how behind the seasons are in Colorado - these arrived in my local box delivery (meaning they are grown in Colorado) just last week.  This is what happens when you live above 5,000 feet in elevation!

I did a bit of reading on fava beans and it turns out they are one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world and were the only beans Europeans ate before they discovered America.  It isn't surprising that these beans aren't more popular... to prepare them, you must string and shuck the beans from their exterior pod.  Next you must parboil the beans and remove a second layer of skin (a waxy coating on each bean).  Yes, before you have even started to cook the beans, you've essentially peeled them twice.  And it takes a while.  And these beans are slippery and some of them will "escape" and ping off in a random direction (e.g., over the balcony from our dining room area behind a couch).  

But... the end result was absolutely worth the effort and there was something about the process that made me really appreciate just how good the beans were when we had them at dinner last night.  In my opinion, these taste like a cross between lima beans and edamame.  This preparation doesn't really require a recipe, but I've included an easy preparation below.  The next time you see funky-shaped beans at your farmer's market or grocery store, grab a few pounds and get shucking!

Easy Fava Beans
Yield: 3-4 side servings

2 lbs fava beans, in their pods
2 tbsp butter
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

1. Remove the bean pods from the fuzzy outer pods by running a finger down the visible seam and opening it up. Then run another finger down the inside of the pod and into a bowl, collecting the beans.

2.  Discard the fuzzy shells and place the inner beans into the basket of a steamer.

3. Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Place the steamer basket over the water and allow the beans to steam for about five minutes.

4. Immediately plunge the beans into ice cold water to stop them from cooking more.

5. Slip the second skin from each of the beans and discard. Place the edible portion in to a  bowl and continue with the remaining beans.

6. When all of your beans are shucked, heat the butter in a heavy bottomed skillet over medium high heat.  Add the beans and sauté for about three minutes. Season liberally with salt and pepper and serve immediately.